The Agora
Bible Commentary
2 Corinthians

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2 Corinthians 9

2Co 9:3

IN ORDER THAT OUR BOASTING ABOUT YOU IN THIS MATTER SHOULD NOT PROVE HOLLOW: It seems that, whilst the Corinthians had spoken enthusiastically about giving for the poor saints at Jerusalem, Paul was anxious that the 'benefit' would not be available when required -- because they had not been 'laying up' each 'first day of the week' (1Co 16:2).

2Co 9:6

WHOEVER SOWS GENEROUSLY WILL ALSO REAP GENEROUSLY: "There is ample field for every liberal soul who may conceive liberal things in the service of God. By liberal things he shall stand. There are not many to whom liberality occurs in this direction. But the celestial phenomenon is not absolutely unknown. Surprising, instances are permitted to break the monotony of carnal stagnation, which even Paul lamented when he said, 'All seek their own and not the things which are Jesus Christ's' [Phi 2:21]... A man seems a fool who spends on God. Final developments will show a light on this subject that all men will be able to see" (LM 237).

2Co 9:7

GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER: "Perhaps we have not applied this admonition in any extended field, yet surely there is no reason why we should not. It is a principle and applies on every plane. Sometimes we have been guilty of rebellious gloominess in our work though not in the matter of money. We would give to the collections as we are able and give cheerfully, remembering the apostle's admonition. Then we might fail utterly on a more important plane and never reflect that we were at fault. 'Plenty of letters this morning and not a single one of any interest. All miserable requests for lectures!' The rule should be, of course, to give such service as we are able and to give cheerfully, just as in the matter of giving money.

"It is nearly always possible to give even though one should be so bereft of strength and substance that work of any kind seems out of the question. A brother who for many years has been bedridden and hardly able to move a muscle has more than once sent forth a cheering and strengthening message just when it was much needed. It is hardly possible that he can realize the potency of such giving. It reproves the false feeling of faintness on the part of those who are relatively strong. Such messages are a clarion call to all who are really alive. Truly there are men, magnificent animals, who on the spiritual plane need to be carried everywhere and there are human wrecks who help to do the carrying.

"Ah, if only we could have an ecclesia with everyone intent on giving, what a transformation it would make -- brethren neither pulling down that which once they built nor supinely waiting to be fed; but all active, all giving and anxious to serve. A little fasting and special prayer in such a meeting might bring a direct message from Heaven as in the days of Daniel" (PrPr).

2Co 9:8

IN ALL THINGS AT ALL TIMES... YOU WILL ABOUND IN EVERY GOOD WORK: "Surely there is nothing sadder or more tragic than individuals claiming to be brethren and sisters of Christ who 'do not know what to do with their time': who 'have nothing to do'. There is enough to do to fill a hundred lifetimes, if people would open their eyes, and get their little minds off themselves. No one does enough for others, in service and kindness and remembrance. No one studies enough. No one writes enough letters. No one preaches the Truth enough. True brethren and sisters of Christ will be perpetually thankful for every precious moment with joyful usefulness in His glorious service. Many worldly organizations are crying for volunteers to do urgently needed humanitarian work. This is truly a waste of time for Christ's brethren and sisters, who have a multitude of far higher and more eternally useful things pressing to be done; but at least this fact is a standing condemnation of any who do not fill their lives with some useful and helpful activity. The empty-headed, infantile world more and more seeks baby-toys and games and vacuous, spoon-fed Disney 'entertainment'. Let the children of wisdom be far, far above this pitiful life-wasting folly! 'Always abound in the work of the Lord.' The more we devote our lives to constructively and actively doing the work of God, the less likely we are to sin. This is not a guarantee, for the flesh is very deceptive, but it is a great help. The more we keep God in mind, the more He will strengthen us against weakness and folly. We are much more likely to sink into sin when our guard is down, and our minds are on present things. Knowing this, we are responsible for our failures if we put ourselves in the channel of failure" (GVG).

2Co 9:10

NOW HE... WILL ALSO SUPPLY AND INCREASE... AND WILL ENLARGE THE HARVEST OF YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS: It is the spirit in which the 'bounty' is given that matters, not the amount. God can bless what is given. In reality God does not need our gifts to the work of the Truth. If we were not to respond to a need He will 'make relief and deliverance arise from another place': see Est 4:14.

2Co 9:15

The indescribable gift of God, by which He showed His exceeding grace, involved His sowing bountifully, generously, and willingly... above, far above, what He might have been expected to do.

I think this describes the Father's giving up of His Son, to a cruel death... which was a loss and a sorrow that hurt Him deeply. This is what Paul has in mind when, in Rom 8, he compares Abraham's offering of his precious son Isaac (Gen 22) to God's offering of His Son Jesus: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Rom 8:32).

I think we are meant to see, here, an intense, ripping pain... experienced by the Father, the Creator of all things, who was not compelled to experience such pain -- because, in a sense, it was self-inflicted, and He could have stopped it -- but He chose not to stop it. This was not an "academic" exercise; it was not a "clinical" experiment. The agony that the Father felt was like the sun growing dark, and the earth quaking... and these things literally happened when Jesus died... so that we can begin to feel what the Father must have felt.

But, we think to ourselves: THIS is Omnipotence. Surely HE is beyond the intensity of sorrow that we can feel at the loss of a loved one, too young and too soon! Or... surely it couldn't have hurt HIM that badly... because He knew that it could all be remedied, and that it WOULD all be remedied, very shortly. Surely it wasn't REALLY that bad, for HIM!

Yet we must ask ourselves as well: What is there about US, that we can feel so intensely... a hurt, a personal loss, a tragedy, an ongoing sorrow? Isn't it, perhaps, that we are made in HIS image? And, just as our minds are so far above those of other "beasts", and our capacity to understand matters outside of ourselves, and beyond the constraints of time and place, must far exceed that of His other "creatures"... isn't that because we are made in HIS image? So, in our sorrow too, which can burn like a physical pain, and leave an ache that no medication can cure, in that too we must be in HIS image. And if HIs abilities and capacities so far exceed ours, as Omnipotence does weakness, and Eternity does a short span of years... then... how much more suffering must HE have been capable of experiencing, when HE witnessed His Son at the trial, and the smiting, and the flogging, and the cross?

"I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us -- yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. He said, 'Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me'; and so he became their Savior. In all their distress he too was distressed ['In all their affliction He was afflicted': KJV], and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit" (Isa 63:7-10).

We are reminded of David, who -- given the opportunity to offer to God a special offering provided by someone else -- refused, saying: "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing" (2Sa 24:24). That, we see, is the essence of sacrifice: to give up willingly something of value, something the loss of which will hurt. He who has a religion that costs him nothing, has a religion that is worth nothing. And, in that light, we look at the sacrifice which the Father offered in His Son, because it was HIS sacrifice as well as His Son's, and we must try to fathom what that offering must have cost Him! Surely it is beyond our abilities to put a price tag on such a sacrifice.

That is why God's gift of grace in His Son is called by Paul "indescribable", because the Father Himself "sowed bountifully" the "seed" of His Son. He gave up on our behalf that precious "Seed", which cost Him immeasurably; and He drew a veil, as it were, over the pain and hurt He felt... but we may get a sense of the intensity of His emotions when we see the sun grow dark, or we feel the earth tremble under our feet.

He did this because He loves us! And He had to do it because we have sinned against Him! And because it was the way, the only way, that He could hope to bring us back to Him. Perverse and foolish, like silly sheep, we wander here and there, and lose sight of the Eternal Shepherd. But He seeks us out, and lovingly calls us, and reminds us again -- pointing to the cross -- of the price HE paid for our redemption. And He reminds us that HE, the Father, is still waiting and watching for us to find our weary way, beaten and broken by the world's vain pursuits, back to HIM. The One who spared not His own Son stands ready to welcome us with open arms.

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!"

"Speak to us, LORD, till, shamed by Thy great giving,
Our hands unclasp to set our treasures free;
Our wills, our love, our dear ones, our possessions
All gladly yielded, gracious LORD, to Thee."

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